New York has passed laws to make social media less addictive, but the real change will take time.

New York State legislators have joined other lawmakers in recognizing the dangers of social media for children. The legislation’s ability to achieve its goal of protecting young people’s mental wellbeing will be determined by its implementation and its ability to survive any legal challenges.

In the final days of the session, the legislature passed with a large majority a package that will restrict “addictive feeds” on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. The governor is expected to sign the bill. Hochul into law.

The proponents of the bill claim that algorithms designed to keep people scrolling are addictive and rob children of sleep. One bill would require parental permission to access algorithms that keep kids glued to their phones, or else default to a chronology feed and pause notifications at midnight.

The companion bill includes safeguards to prevent the collection or sale of personal information about children without their parents’ consent. The bills were both sponsored by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and state senator Andrew Gounardes, both of Brooklyn.

The bills were met with strong opposition by industry groups and companies who began a vigorous lobbying campaign. This backlash is nothing new. Several states already have laws that prohibit harmful social media content. These laws have been tangled up in the courts.

Adam Kovacevich is the CEO of Chamber of Progress. He described the recent changes in the legislation as “a fresh coat of paint on an old rotten bill.” They have opposed the measures because they claim that the could hinder efforts to make platforms more suitable for children.

Kovacevich stated that algorithms actually improve online platforms for teens by favoring healthy content and reducing hate, harm, or misinformation. The unconstitutional limitations of this bill will have a difficult time withstanding a legal challenge.

New York legislators believe that their legislation has been drafted in a way to avoid causing any problems with free speech and other sensitive issues.

Gounardes said, “We carefully examined the legal landscape in the whole country.” We believe we have designed this bill in a manner that avoids the many obstacles to which other bills were subjected. This bill is not a violation of content.

During the negotiations, the lawmakers removed provisions from the bill which restricted the night hours of the platforms. They also dropped the provision that gave parents a private right to sue the companies who break the law. In order to implement the new changes, the New York Attorney General was asked to develop rules for the enforcement of the law.

Letitia J. James, the Attorney General who was a key proponent in the creation of the bill, will be required to determine how social media platforms are able to verify the age and consent of parents. The tech companies say that this could include asking users to complete a form or requiring them to provide government identification.

The governor promised that there would be a rigorous process. “There will not just be a simple birthday,” he said. The bill appears to defer key implementation questions to James, and it will not be implemented until the rules are in place.

Many lawmakers and social media experts believe that the legislation is still a good first step, and that the protections of children are too important to ignore.

Hochul, at a recent press conference, said: “We will continue this fight.” “We won’t give up.” Now it’s your turn to work with us. You will be much better off working with us.

Professor Ioana Literat of Columbia University Teachers College said that governments play a vital role in ensuring the safety of platforms for youth, but they have been traditionally “lax” and “hands-off.”

Literat said that the proposed bills were on the right path, since they addressed legitimate concerns about the safety and privacy online of children. She warned, however, against relying too heavily on parental consent which could have a negative impact on teenagers who use the Internet as a way to express themselves and learn about their identities.

According to data collected in 2021, close to 4/10 of local high school students felt so depressed or hopeless they stopped their normal activities. Among those who contemplated suicide, 16% did so.

Reforms could go beyond social media legislation. Hochul is also looking at legislation that would ban smartphones from New York’s schools to continue his fight for online safety. The governor told The Guardian that children would still be able to use flip phones with text messaging.

Nicholas Rosario, who is a senior in Discovery High School, in the Bronx where students are required to keep their phones in their bags during school hours, says that the restrictions placed on social media use and devices will not help him or his friends. He said that his school has a counselor, a social worker and will be losing a staffer in the next year.

Rosario said that her school does not have any phones, but mental health crises still occur. The lack of counselors is a major factor that hurts students. – New York Daily News/Trinity News Service

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